ATEC* Biodigesters (ATEC*), an Australian social enterprise, has raised US$1.6M in a Series B equity round to roll out the world’s first PAYGO (pay-as-you-go) model for biodigesters as well as to expand its operations from Cambodia to Bangladesh. The funding for ATEC* was secured with support from ATEC’s key partners, the Clean Cooking Alliance and Impact Investment Exchange (IIX). The investment was made by a consortium of investors led by ENGIE Rassembleurs d’Energies and including Fondation Ensemble, the IIX Growth Fund, and Phitrust Asia.
“ATEC* is the first globally to integrate PAYGO with biodigesters, meaning they’re finally affordable for almost every family in rural developing communities,” said Ben Jeffreys, ATEC* CEO. “Working in partnership with our international debt providers, thousands of families will now have affordable access to clean energy and a healthier lifestyle.”
ATEC’s unique household biodigester technology was founded and developed for specific application in seasonally-flooded countries such as Cambodia, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Indonesia. By installing a biodigester system, farming households utilize gas as a source of reliable and free energy, replacing traditional wood-burning cook stoves with a cleaner, healthier, and eco-friendly alternative. The system also produces a high-quality organic fertilizer that increases crop yield and can also be used as a substitute for chemical fertilizer. Combining these benefits, an average rural Cambodian family can save $521 per year.
The funding for ATEC* was secured with support from IIX, which was engaged by the Clean Cooking Alliance’s Spark+ program. IIX worked with ATEC* through its award-winning accelerator ACTS, as well as its Impact Partners™ platform—which raises a combination of debt and equity for growth-stage high-impact enterprises and connects them to over 1,200 accredited investors around the world. IIX has continued to support ATEC* through several rounds of funding, including its Series A, a subsequent round of debt financing, and the latest Series B.
Robert Kraybill, IIX Chief Investment Officer and Managing Director, said: “At IIX we believe that climate resilience begins by empowering our most vulnerable communities. Having worked in partnership with ATEC* since 2016, we’re excited to see how a commitment to deep social and environmental impact in Asia can drive innovation and sustainability, while generating a financial return for impact investors.”
Anne Chassagnette, CEO of Rassembleurs d’Energies and Chief Sustainable Officer of ENGIE, stated: “We are very excited to support the expansion of ATEC* and the deployment of PAYGO technology in the small scale biogas industry that will enable more people to access this clean sustainable solution. The mission and reach of ATEC* is fully in line with Rassembleurs d’Energies’s ambition to promote access to sustainable energy for all.”
Under ATEC’s world’s first PAYGO biogas scheme, farming households which are unable to pay for the cost of a biodigester upfront can opt for easy monthly installment payments with the convenience of mobile money. The additional savings generated by foregoing the purchase of gas and chemical fertilizer would offset the payments. Trials to date under the PAYGO scheme have seen a doubling in lead conversion rates increasing ATEC’s scalability by tapping into existing PAYGO distributors and allowing more small-scale farmers to afford the biodigesters.
Globally, there are an estimated 205 million farms that can benefit from biodigesters, with the majority of these being in Asia. South and Southeast Asia have the highest potential, with Cambodia and Bangladesh representing estimated potential markets of 1.3 million and 4.5 million farming households, respectively. However, the market for biodigesters remains largely untapped and one of the biggest hurdles is small-scale farmers’ inability to afford the upfront purchase price.
According to IIX’s impact assessment, ATEC’s PAYGO model will enable 7,500 households to access clean energy, reduce exposure to indoor air pollution, free up over 3 hours per day per household—primarily for women—from basic cooking and fuel needs, and avoid 33,000 metric tons of carbon emissions per year.